Hugo Chavez Film Bombs in Venezuela
As political propaganda films go, Oliver Stone's sycophantic pean to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, South of the Border, is an unmitigated failure.
Chavez has undermined democracy and the rule of law in his country. In the tradition of modern tyrants everywhere, he has shut down media outlets that show the slightest opposition to his regime. He has packed the civil service with apparatchiks and made loyalty to his own political brand the key metric for hiring and firing. And he has utterly wrecked the Venezuelan economy, including even the oil industry from which he sucks out cash to finance his Bolivarian revolution.
For all this, Chavez is not direct military threat to the USA. Russian-bought T-72 tanks with Venezuelan markings will not be rolling into Washington anytime in the conceivable future. The threat has been indirect, as a Castro-lite regime attempts to influence the development of a wider South American socialist bloc of countries.
Oliver Stone's flick overlooks Chavez' failings and presents him and other Latin American socialist leaders as visionaries and heroes. But nobody is buying it; least of all, the people Chavez keeps under his boot.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that "Despite round-the-clock promotion on Venezuelan state television and government-subsidized screenings in the capital of Caracas, local moviegoers have largely stayed away. The film grossed only $18,601 on 20 screens in the 12 days after its June 4 debut." Compare that with the $2.1 million grossed by the Michael Jackson documentary "This Is It" in Venezuela.
Ticket sales in the rest of the continent were correspondingly small, maxing out at $40,000 in Argentina and $21,000 in Brazil.
What does it all mean? It seems you can lead an oppressed population to the cinema, but you can't make them watch your awful movie -- and you definitely can't get them to pay for the privilege.
Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist